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The Tootsie Pop Effect

Posted by Jason Wood on September 12, 2006

Admit it, as a kid you thought there was an explicit answer to the owl's query about how many licks it took to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, didn't you?

These days our curiosities may revolve around other things, but are no less nebulous at times.

Today my curiosity turns to how likely a wide receiver is to enjoy 1,000+ yards receiving for the first time in any given season. As an Eagles fan, my expectations for the newly-acquired Donte Stallworth were minimal. After all, he failed to break the 1,000-yard mark in his first four seasons. But his Week One output (6 receptions, 141 yards, 1 TD) has my homerism in full bloom and I now have visions of Fred Barnett dancing in my head. So I asked myself, how often is a receiver likely to break the 1,000-yard mark in Year 5 or later after not doing so in Years 1-4?

Among players debuting in 1990 or later, 75 wide receivers have recorded at least one 1,000-yard season. Of those, only 20 had their first 1,000-yard campaign in Year 5 or later:

LastName FirstName 1st 1K Season # 1K Seasons
Kennison Eddie 9 2
Brown Troy 9 1
Jackson Willie 8 1
McCaffrey Ed 8 3
Ismail Qadry 7 2
Ismail Raghib 6 2
Scott Darnay 6 1
Stokley Brandon 6 1
Martin Tony 6 4
McDuffie O.J. 6 1
Jackson Michael 6 1
Horn Joe 5 4
Mason Derrick 5 5
McCardell Keenan 5 5
Graham Jeff 5 1
Westbrook Michael 5 1
Chambers Chris 5 1
Moore Rob 5 3
Thigpen Yancey 5 2
Mathis Terance 5 4

Of those 20, nine (45%) had one and only one 1,000-yard season while seven (35%) have recored three or more 1K seasons. More germane to my Stallworth curiosity, nine (45%) of the 20 came in Year 5. It appears that WRs who hit the 1K mark in Year 5 have a higher rate of excellence in future years:

  • Average # of 1K seasons for WRs who have their first 1K season in Year 5 = 2.89
  • Average # of 1K seasons for WRs who have their first 1K season in Year 6+ = 1.73

20 instances in 15 years is, in my mind, neither something we can label as common or exceedingly rare. The fact is, it happens, but it's less likely a receiver will break into the elite 1,000-yard category and stay there if it takes him until his 5th season.

  • Average # of 1K seasons for WRs who have their first 1K season in Year 5+ = 2.25
  • Average # of 1K seasons for WRs who have their first 1K season in Years 1-4 = 2.82

I'm not sure whether Donte Stallworth will have a career like Derrick Mason's, but I'll just be happy if he doesn't end up with one like Michael Westbrook's.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2006 at 6:00 am and is filed under Fantasy, History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.